Right now, there’s a summer camp taking place in Denver that focuses on the Black experience, educating children on topics you might not see in the textbook.

FOX31 visited the 5280 Freedom School in the Five Points neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon to learn more about its history and hopes of expanding.

The summer camp is named after Denver’s chapter of Black Lives Matter and started in 2018 with 14 kids attending the camp for half-days for one week. Now, in 2022, it’s grown to more than 60 children and has a waitlist to attend. This year’s two-week camp started on Monday, July 11, and runs until July 22.

Program Director Marissa Chandler explains the summer camp as an experience of passion, acceptance and education.

“They love it,” Chandler said. “To bring Black children together, especially in areas where they don’t really have these kinds of spaces, and to provide them with education that they’re not going to get at school. It’s a space to be themselves and to explore their identities and to be free of racism. We make them feel love and seen.”

Watch the story from FOX31.

Aired on July 12, 2022.

by Lindsey Ford, Rocky Mountain PBS, aired on June 7, 2022

“Someone’s life story could be someone else’s survival guide,” said Marie Escalante, of Thornton. Now, she is sharing her story — one where a global pandemic and a cancer battle led to a struggle to keep food on the table for her three children: 10-year-old twins and a 14-year-old daughter. 

“Even after chemo treatments I was down for the count,” Escalante explained. She had developed neuropathy — pain and numbness due to nerve damage — in her legs and was often extremely tired. 

“My oldest daughter said, ‘Mom, I can cook.’ And I would tell her, you know, ‘I’m still your mom, you know, I’m going to do the best I can to make sure you guys have proper meals prepare and whatever… you’re only 14 and I’m not trying to have you take the weight of the world on your shoulders because I’m sick,'” Escalante recalled. 

That’s where Colorado Food Cluster came in. The nonprofit was born out of the pandemic in August 2020 as a way to address the need of kids who were receiving free food at school but then didn’t receive the meals while learning remotely. The organization started putting together boxes of food that included seven dinners, snacks, milk, preparation instructions and QR codes for online learning to families. CFC delivered these boxes to people all over the Denver metro area, Colorado Springs and several other locations.

Now, that service is in “jeopardy.”

WATCH the video on Rocky Mountain PBS.

I am the product of public education and as a first-generation American, I was raised to believe in the power of public education and the opportunities it provides.

My very first experiences and memories in public school were not always positive — my Nigerian culture and language were devalued. But a few great teachers turned it around for me, creating a sense of community and allowing me to be myself.

This motivated me to pursue a career in education, one that drove me towards earning my bachelor’s, law degree and master’s in educational leadership. After more than a decade of working in education, I can say with certainty that my life’s work is to close opportunity gaps and ensure equitable outcomes for all students.

Today, I’m extremely fortunate to serve as the CEO at KIPP Colorado Public Schools and to be the first Black CMO (Charter Management Organization) leader in the state of Colorado.

I’ve been in this role for two years, and this year, I’m grateful to be a part of a truly special celebration: the 20th anniversary of KIPP’s first public charter school in Denver.

Why did I choose to lead KIPP Colorado, despite my lived experience in public schools?

Read more from Tomi Amos, CEO of KIPP Colorado Public Schools in Boardhawk.

Twenty-five middle school students from DSST Conservatory Green’s Peer Mentor Program spend time weekly with students in the Multiple Intensive Severe (MIS) program led by teacher, Michael Vess. Sometimes being a mentor means just being a friend.

Watch the clip from Denver7

Written by Tricia Noyola, CEO at Rocky Mountain Prep for The74

Teaching is a rewarding and challenging job — a career not for the faint of heart. Teachers pour their hearts and souls into their classroom to give each student an opportunity. Over the years teaching has morphed into an even bigger job in education — teachers are counselors, confidants, caregivers, nurses and sometimes parent figures.

Since the pandemic hit, everything in education has gotten so much harder.

Over the last two years, teachers have faced enormous challenges. They have provided social-emotional support to students who lost family members. They have switched at a moment’s notice to online learning, taken temperatures, isolated from loved ones when COVID struck their classrooms and persevered through illness themselves. All this on top of their primary purpose: to educate children.

As a result of this pressure from the pandemic, many college graduates are choosing not to pursue careers in education. But I believe we are at a unique moment in time to fix this and not only recognize teachers for the professionals they are, but also pay them what they rightly deserve.

As a CEO of a charter school network in Denver, I’m committed to providing the best place for teachers who are committed to upholding the school’s values and for all students to realize

their full potential through a rigorous and loving elementary education. While I know that money isn’t the reason anyone goes into education, I have heard loud and clear through surveys and listening sessions that compensation needs to be more competitive for teachers.

Read more in The74.

Last year, Ednium: The Alumni Collective and its alumni partners gathered in full force during the Board of Education meeting where they provided public comment in support of adding financial literacy to high school graduation requirements.

After working with board members, the policy was adopted unanimously, and the real work began.

However, the initial idea to champion a financial literacy campaign started in 2019 when alumni partners came together in Ednium’s Design Lab to identify issues they could impact in public-school education.

Through in-person discussions, coupled with a survey of key stakeholders, the issue that resonated the most was financial literacy. Alumni expressed a lack of understanding on topics such as personal finance, loans, credit cards, and budgeting. After graduation, many were challenged to learn the hard way which oftentimes resulted in long-term consequences that had a ripple effect on their livelihood. 

“It was a collective space where alumni imagined what this could look like for future students and asked the question, ‘what do I know now that I wish I knew then?,” says Perla Bustillos, Ednium co-founder and director of operations. 

Once the board adopted the policy, the work began to access resources to support the initial goal: integrating the curriculum in all district high schools. 

Read more from Boardhawk.

Denver7 aired on March 9, 2022

A few years ago, Denver Public Schools adopted an innovative model, which allows schools to design their own ‘playbook’ with input from teachers, parents and the community.

“We didn’t want to be a traditional school,” said Alex Magana, executive director of Grant Beacon Middle School and Kepner Beacon Middle School. “We didn’t want to follow just these guidelines, these rules. We wanted to create our own playbook.”

But this model is now threatened. The DPS board has proposed executive limitations on innovative schools, claiming teachers don’t have a choice to opt out in those schools. The teacher’s union says that violates teacher rights.

There is now plenty of pushback against that from parents and teachers at innovation schools.

“Literacy is of the highest priority here,” said Victoria Bailey, librarian and Kepner Beacon and Grant Beacon schools. “At many schools, physical libraries are a thing of the past. There is not staffing for a physical library.”

Bailey says this is just one of the many ways innovative schools are improving education.

“We can tailor our schools based on our community, based on our demographic,” she said.

WATCH the story from Denver7.

Photo credit: KMGH

Published on March 7, 2022 in Boardhawk

Not every school is able or willing to go out of its way to meet the needs of families, but Rocky Mountain Prep (RMP) Creekside, where my son Contrelle has attended for six years, regularly goes above and beyond.

What RMP has done for my family over the years just goes to show how a small school community can be responsive in ways larger schools or districts can’t be.

Contrelle is in fifth grade now. He has been at RMP Creekside since kindergarten. In all those years, I honestly cannot remember one thing the school has done that I would criticize. And four months ago, when I had my second child, the school went way above and beyond to help ensure that Contrelle could get to school each day.

My husband goes to work very early in the morning, so I’m the one who gets Contrelle to the bus stop every day. But with a newborn and the cold December weather, this was challenging. Schools do not normally provide a door-to-door car service for their families, and it’s not their responsibility to do that. It’s unheard of. Still, that is exactly what RMP did. I am so grateful.

READ more from Boardhawk.

Rocky Mountain PBS by Lindsey Ford | Published on February 28, 2022

When COVID-19 arrived to the U.S. in 2020, it changed the American way of life, sending kids home from school, closing stores and restaurants and leading to mandatory social-distancing and mask-wearing.

Two years after the initial shutdown, four Denver-based parents shared with Rocky Mountain PBS some of what they’ve been through, the ways they’ve coped and how they are still feeling the effects of the global pandemic.  

Kristin Franke, a single mother to a 4-year-old, shared that when the pandemic first hit, she was laid off from her job. It was tough for her.

“There’s just a lot of unknowns going on, and I think there is a lot of fear still, and nobody knows how we’re going to get caught up; that’s a big one,” Franke said. “The biggest struggle is being at home with my daughter all the time and not having any outside help.” 

Franke now works from home. She, like the other moms we spoke with, said her daughter’s virtual learning was particularly challenging. To keep the family balance in her household, she let her daughter know that just because she was learning virtually, that didn’t mean it was time to play. Franke suggested parents set up a schedule at home to keep everyone on track, just like if your child was at school. 

Mothers Lorena Popoca, Kadi Kouyate and Ivy Foster have similar set-ups at home for their kids’ learning. 

WATCH the video from RMPBS.

Denver (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools “schoolchoice” open enrollment is underway. The school choice window for open enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year started Friday and continues through 4 p.m. Feb. 15.

“School Choice allows families to really find the best fit for their kiddos that means Yeah, whatever school across the district that best meets their needs. And that’s regardless of whether you live in southwest Denver or you live in a $1 home in Wash Park, you can find a school that really meets your child where they’re at,” said Nicholas Martinez with Transform Education Now.

Applications can be filled out online on the DPS website. The results are expected in late March.

Watch the interview with Nicholas Martinez, Co-Founder, Executive Director of Transform Education Now.

Photo credit: Katie Wood, The Denver Post via Getty Images